I was 10 when my mother gave birth to another boy. Now, one more packet of happiness was added. Everyone was happy and sweets were distrusted among close friends and relatives.
I merrily asked - “Mom, when I was born at that time also sweets were distributed?”
My mom said, “No kid. Sweets are distributed when boys are born.”
Hearing it made me sad. I asked, “why so?”
My mom said, “It’s a rule dear. We can’t break it.”
A ten-year-old heart did not mind these things. But as I started growing old, it started to matter. At the age of 14, I got my menstrual cycle. I was not aware of the fact that during these days a girl can't go to temple and kitchen. Being unaware I just went inside the kitchen.
As soon as I stepped inside mom shouted - "what are you doing inside the kitchen? You have gone nuts or what. Now I need to clean the whole kitchen again."
I said, “Mom, I just came to drink some water. Why are you so angry?"
She said, “Girl's don't come inside kitchen during periods. You uncleaned my kitchen by walking in."
I asked, “But why I can't enter into the kitchen? What's the big deal?"
She irritatingly said, “It’s a rule. It's being followed from ages and you'll also have to follow. Now please just go and stop arguing with me.”
I went inside wondering why such rules are being made. My mind got stuck that why we are treated as dirty during menstrual cycle? With all such questions in my mind, I started writing. It was the only thing that I loved the most.
As I turned 15, my mom told me now it's my time to start learning to cook.
I said, “But mommy studies are still going. And with that, you also know I don't have free time.”
Mom said, “You'll have to manage from now. You will have to leave your studies at some point in time. You’ll have to go and take the responsibility of the new house and a new family. You’ll have to be a wife someday."
I replied, “But mom what if I don't want to get married so soon. I want to complete my education first. I want to be an Author. And you also know I don't like cooking and doing household chores.”
She irritatingly replied, “Oh god! You girl! I'm tired of your nagging. Why don't you get it? You are a girl and a girl needs to know cooking. A girl needs to know how to sweep and how to wash clothes. It's not about your likes or dislikes. It's about being a girl.”
Thereafter, it was a routine to argue with my mom on this topic. Every time I tried to debate, every time she scolded me saying that You need to learn manners. A girl can’t question. They just need to accept everything as they are.
Once I just asked “Why you don’t tell brother to cook. Why it's just me?”
She said, “because he is a boy. A boy should go out and work. It's his duty to go out and earn. A boy should be bold, courageous and strong. Likewise, you're a girl. A girl's duty is to cook food and take care of the house. It's a girl’s responsibility to take care of children. A girl should know to compromise and sacrifice for her husband."
I was shocked listening to her. I stood there still - not blinking, not moving. Her answer did not hurt her daughter but it hurt the girl inside me. I challenged my mom that one day she’ll be proud of me. One day I'll show her what ‘being a girl’ means.
At the age of 20, they told me to behave properly in front of neighbors and relatives. Each and every move will now get counted for the purpose of marriage. In my own house, I felt like I have been trapped in a cage of 'being a girl'.
That day I decided to run away from my house. It was a big decision but now I was adamant. I just took with me the most important things in my life - my diary, pen and definitely my self-respect of 'being a girl'.
I could have taken money but I did not because I wanted to show my family that I'm not dependent on someone else. I could survive on my own.
I came to Mumbai. I struggled hard to find a job and earn. I slept on benches in the garden and skipped my food for days. All this while I started working towards my dream of being an Author. I started writing my own book. I did not know what would be the outcome but I have seen the dream and I can't stop. Finally, after a week or two, I find a job of a waitress in Starbucks cafe. My pay was just six thousand rupees. Waitressing there I made a few good friends. I started to live with them.
After days of hard work and struggling, I finally completed my book. There was one problem - getting it published. I didn’t have money. But my friends did not let me stop. They showed faith in me. One of my friends suggested an idea why not we get the pages printed and start giving it free to people who come to our cafe. I liked the idea. So we started giving it to our customers for free. From there I received an offer from a publishing house to get my book published.
And today, in front of five thousand people, I’m not anyone’s daughter; still, I don’t cook, I’m not someone’s wife. My identity is just that of a girl. This is what ‘being a girl’ means. Yes! I’m a girl of my own choice. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a girl/boy. What matters is your talent.